Employment amongst newly qualified graduates has strongly rebounded this year, with the numbers working shortly after finishing college now surpassing pre-pandemic levels.

Overall, more than eight out of 10 (81.9%) graduates from the Class of 2021 were in employment nine months after their graduation, up from 75.9% for the Class of 2020, and 80.1% for the Class of 2018. The figure is included in the latest Graduate Outcomes Survey published on Wednesday by the Higher Education Authority (HEA).

Captured in March 2022, this report is the second published by the HEA since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. Its remit covers 72,148 students graduating across 23 higher education institutions, with an overall response rate of 50.3%.

Employment was found to be highest among education graduates (94.2%) and lowest for arts and humanities graduates (65%).

For those with undergraduate honours degrees, more than three-quarters (75.8%) were employed nine months after graduation, up significantly from 69.7% in 2020 and slightly above the 74.7% in 2018.

The proportion of graduates pursuing further study also decreased slightly to 18.3% in 2021, down from 20.9% in 2020. Unemployment amongst this group decreased to 3.9% in 2021, down from 7.2% in 2020.


Earnings still tend to widely vary depending on a graduate’s gender, postcode, and college course. More than a quarter (27.6%) of the graduates who took part did not disclose their salaries.

When comparing like-for-like graduates, predicted earnings for male graduates stood at €39,320 while the predicted salary for female graduates stood at €36,899. This leaves a gender pay gap of just under €2,500.

A predicted gender pay gap can also be seen amongst postgraduate students, with this estimated to stand at just under €3,000. When comparing like-for-like graduates, predicted earnings for men stood at €45,577 compared to the predicted salary for women of €42,742.

Graduates working in the Dublin region had the highest average salary nine months after graduation, at €35,317. This was followed by the Mid-West region at €33,481.

Graduates employed in the construction sector were the highest paid, receiving an average salary of €40,927. Those working in transportation and industry also reported average annual salaries of €39,468 and €38,362 respectively.

Graduates working in the accommodation and food services as well as the wholesale and retail trade sectors earned the least nine months after graduation.

‘Strong rebound’

Nine months after graduation, 92.8% of employed graduates are working in Ireland. Dublin was the most common county (43.2%), followed by Cork (13.8%) and Galway (7.1%).

“It is very positive to see a strong rebound in employment levels among this cohort following the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris.

HEA chief executive Dr Alan Wall said: “This year’s release shows a strong labour market for our recent graduates who are securing employment across the economy in professional occupations.”